By Ellen Abramowitz
Around Fire Island on a Sunfish
Fourteen years ago, Dunewood residents Lynn Berman and Rich Perna became the first to sail around Fire Island in a 14-foot Sunfish. A second team of sailors, Sandro Bologna and Adrien Stern, of Lonelyville, Perpetual Trophy winners of the Dunewood Yacht Club (DYC), tried to achieve the same journey. Part of the incentive for Bologna and Stern, both 31, was to improve upon Berman and Perna’s time of 15 hours and 20 minutes.
Bologna and Stern chose Sunday, July 24, to set off in view of the forecast consisting of a south wind for the day. The two departed at 4:21 a.m. Along with their supplies, they had a battery-operated running light attached to their boom so that other vessels would be able to identify them in the dark. In addition, they brought 3 gallons of water, protein bars and six sandwiches.
The decision to leave before sunrise was fairly simple. Their goal was to get around Fire Island before sunset and have the ocean portion of the journey out of the way before the sun started to set. “Worse comes to worse we rather be stuck in the bay,” said Bologna.
At 8:15 a.m. Bologna and Stern passed by Dunewood and Lonelyville on the ocean side. Friends and family were there to cheer them on from the beach that they were able to hear even more than 100 yards off shore. Although they could not identify the faces from that distance, they did recognize the large flag that Berman and Perna were waving.
“That seeing this encouragement energized us, but we knew that the battle was still on,” Stern said.
There first and most difficult challenge came early on in their voyage. Navigating through the Fire Island inlet with little wind and a strong current, the two sailors came up with a successful strategy. They headed out towards Gilgo Beach then headed back on a starboard tack on the south side of Fire Island heading east.
The ocean portion of the journey went fairly smooth albeit slow sailing. The last five miles were a different story, as the weather began to change. The adventurers encountered intense swells, white caps, and some rain.
Their biggest concern, which remained ahead, was going through the Moriches. Their stomachs turned after seeing the 5-foot waves in the newly formed breach and knowing that it was not fit for a Sunfish.
They’re strategized and came up with a plan B. Their idea was to drop their sail, tie everything down and ride the waves through if necessary. When they arrived at Moriches, it was not what they had expected, perhaps because of the flow of water from the breach. Even so they needed to tack through the Moriches and bounced around a bit in the choppy water.
Now they were heading west in the Great South Bay on a reach. The south wind picked up to the point where they needed to take turns baling out water and skippering the boat. At 5:30 p.m., after assessing the wind conditions on the bay, other seasoned sailors from the Dunewood Yacht Club concluded that they were not going to surpass the time set by Berman and Perna. At this point, Bologna and Stern had thought the same.
As they approached Ocean Beach, they checked the time and much to their surprise found it was 6:40 p.m. They knew if they continued along the way they planned that they had a very good shot of returning in record-breaking time.
As it turned out they were right. They surpassed the record set in 2001 with a new time of 14 hours and 58 minutes.
Their adrenaline was pumping when they returned. Although shivering and bleary-eyed from the salt water, they barely noticed. Lynn Berman, Rich Perna, family, friends and others showed up to congratulate them on their arrival.
“I’m very excited that two of my closest friends have joined this class. It’s really an amazing accomplishment that only four people have completed to this day,” said Perna when asked how he felt about their accomplishment.
When Bologna and Stern were asked would they recommend the same expedition? Bologna replied, ”Don’t do it,” he urged. “Unless you’re a very experience sailor.”
Congratulations to both Sandro Bologna and Adrien Stern, for their outstanding accomplishment. When asked what’s next? They both replied, while laughing, sailing around Long Island. Clearly an inside joke.
Dunewood News for Ellen can be left at email@example.com.